Transportation roundup

Midtown Freewheel Bike Center opens

For decades it was a loading dock for Sears railroad cars. Then it was an Allina warehouse. On May 16, the Midtown Bike Depot (MBD) became Minneapolis’ first fully-operating bike hub.

The depot will, in essence, be a country club for bikers.

For $110 a year, or $15 a month, bikers will have valet service and electronic keycard access to the 5,500-square-foot space, subleased and operated by Freewheel Bike. Once inside, bikers can drop off their bikes, rent space for their own personal workshop, place their bikes in the “bike shower” and then hop in a shower, themselves.

However, membership is not required. The public is welcome at MBD but won’t receive the storage benefits or discounts members would.

Tucked along the Midtown Greenway just north of Lake Street between Chicago and 10th avenues, the MBD will sport 150 spaces for bike storage, and 75 rental bikes will be available if you want to drop off your ride for a little bit of maintenance and still be able to make it to work.

The idea for the one-stop bike shop has been spinning in owner Kevin Ishaug’s head for the last five years. Ishaug’s first successful Freewheel Bike shop at 1812 S. 6th St. in Downtown, will dovetail nicely with the new Midtown location.

“It’s gonna be wicked,” he said while giving a tour on May 6.

The Midtown location hadn’t become a reality until corporate sponsorship — in the form of $75,000 from Allina, $25,000 from Ryan Cos., and $725,000 in city and federal grants came through. The $1 million project finally saw the rubber hit the road with a grand opening May 16.

The Midtown Greenway Coalition will occupy a spot next door, however there is still another 11,000 square feet of undeveloped space available.

Next to Portland, Ore., the Twin Cities has the second most bike commuters per capita.

The 10,000 employees from Allina Hospitals, Children’s Hospital and Wells Fargo within shouting distance, young professionals and weekend riders from throughout the city will likely frequent the Bike Center (and the fair trade Peace Coffee shop inside).

“It will be a very good area for intermodal transportation,” said spokesman Jason Lardy. “We expect it to continually get more popular with the price of gas
rising.”

The roughly 10-mile Midtown Greenway bike route now runs from Highway 169 in the west to the Mississippi River to the east, Lardy said. The Midtown location acts as a midway point.

“The ride home can seem like a long haul, so why not have a comfortable stop on the way?” Ishaug said on his website, www.freewheelbike.com.

A total of 16 security cameras, and two blue video-monitored emergency stations wired to 1st and 3rd precincts, will keep watch on the location. Ishaug also said he has plans to hire a staff of up to six for the year-round facility. He also has plans for the space to not only be a meeting place for true bikers, but also a venue for outreach program for Minneapolis youth.

With the light-rail within biking distance, oil nearing $125 a barrel and 3,500 bikers riding by at peak summer hours, the MBD is almost sure to be a popular destination off the beaten bike path.

Initial hours for the bike center are 6:30 a.m.–8 p.m., Monday–Friday; 9 a.m.–6 p.m., Saturdays; and 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Sundays.

Crosstown exit ramp at 60th Street closes

The exit ramp from southbound Interstate 35W to 60th Street in Minneapolis closed May 7, according to a Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Crosstown update. The closure is needed to continue bridgework to complete Crosstown reconstruction by December 2010.

Motorists should follow the posted detour routes, MnDOT said.

Public meeting on West Lake Street repairs set for May 20

The City Council’s Transportation and Public Works Committee has called a public meeting May 20 to address streetscape and paving work to be done as a result of ongoing repairs along West Lake Street.

Areas around 3001 Lyndale Ave. S., 2922 Lyndale Ave. S., and 701–703 Lake Street will receive minor work totaling more than $7,000.

The minor work is part of the larger project to reconstruct Lake Street from Dupont to Blaisdell Avenue and Lyndale Avenue from West 29th Street to West 31st Street, according to a city staff report.

The meeting will be held in room 317, Council Chambers, at City Hall.

Transportation roundup

New bike center set to open along Midtown Greenway

The Freewheel Midtown Bike Center will be unveiled at 7 a.m. Friday, May 16.

Located along the Midtown Greenway between Chicago and 10th avenues, the bike center features numerous amenities, including a bike store, café, bike valet, contract storage, bike rentals, bike maintenance, shower facilities and a bike shower.

City officials hope the center will make it more convenient for bikers to shop at Midtown Exchange’s Global Market and other Midtown businesses.

Huge increases in Metro Transit ridership for first quarter

More people rode Metro Transit buses and trains in the first quarter of 2008 than had in the same time frame over the last 20 years.

Some 19.2 million riders rode buses and trains the first three months of the year — up 1.3 million rides, and the most since 1984, according to a Metro Transit news release.

Metro Transit recorded ridership increases across all types of its service, paced by a 16.4 percent increase on the Hiawatha light-rail line. Three-month ridership was 2.1 million, the first time first-quarter ridership topped 2 million in the four-year history of light-rail service.

Locally, ridership was up 8.3 percent, and express bus ridership was up 4.3 percent.

Metro Transit officials said they are on track to meeting their goal of 78 million rides in 2008.

To make it easier to take the bus or train, Metro Transit implemented two new trip-planning features during the first quarter, enhancing online trip planners and adding maps.

Metro Transit, overseen by the Metropolitan Council, operates in metropolitan Minneapolis and St. Paul. For more information, go to www.metrotransit.org.